Front Cover
 Our challenge
 A teaching/learning collection
 What is active learning?: Some...
 Common threads woven through the...
 Our opportunity
 Recommended reading

Group Title: Teaching and Learning Paper Series - University of Florida. Food and Resource Economics Dept. ; TLP 99-2
Title: Engaging learners in economic and management education
Full Citation
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00053097/00001
 Material Information
Title: Engaging learners in economic and management education a challenge to our profession
Series Title: Teaching and learning paper series
Alternate Title: Challenge to our profession
Physical Description: 7 leaves : ; 28 cm.
Language: English
Creator: Wilson, Paul
University of Florida -- Food and Resource Economics Dept
Publisher: Food and Resource Economics Dept., Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida
Place of Publication: Gainesville Fla
Publication Date: 1999
Subject: Agriculture -- Study and teaching   ( lcsh )
Active learning   ( lcsh )
Genre: government publication (state, provincial, terriorial, dependent)   ( marcgt )
non-fiction   ( marcgt )
Statement of Responsibility: Paul Wilson ... et al.
General Note: "December 1999."
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00053097
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: George A. Smathers Libraries, University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved, Board of Trustees of the University of Florida
Resource Identifier: aleph - 003436393
oclc - 43451877

Table of Contents
    Front Cover
        Front Cover
    Our challenge
        Page 1
        Page 2
    A teaching/learning collection
        Page 3
    What is active learning?: Some teasers
        Page 4
    Common threads woven through the workshop papers
        Page 5
    Our opportunity
        Page 6
    Recommended reading
        Page 7
Full Text
MAR 2 4 2000

TLP 99-2




Paul Wilson, Gary F. Fairchild, Lois Schertz Willett and Bernie Erven

Teaching and Learning Paper TLP 99-2

December 1999

The goal of the Teaching and Learning paper Series is to improve, enhance, and enrich
the teaching and learning environment in the department, college, university, and
profession through the publication ofpapers on teaching philosophies and techniques,
curricular issues, and case studies. Papers are circulated without formal review by the
Food and Resource Economics Department and thus the content is the sole
responsibility of the faculty author or co-author.


Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences
Food and Resource Economics Department
University of Florida
Gainesville, FL

Engaging Learners in Economic and Management Education:
A Challenge to Our Profession


Paul Wilson, Gary Fairchild, Lois Schertz Willett, and Bernie Erven

Abstract: An overview is provided of a teaching/learning workshop at the 1998 American
Agricultural Economics Association Annual Meeting sponsored by the AAEA Resident Instruction,
Extension, and Economic Education Committees with the theme "Active Learning: Engaging Adults
in Economic and management Education." Examples of active learning are provided and the
agricultural economics profession is challenged to incorporate active learning experiences in both
on- and off-campus learning environments and to improve understanding of learning styles, group
dynamics, and teaching methods to increase educational efficiency and effectiveness.

Key Words: active learning, engaging learners, economic and management education.

Engaging Learners in Economic and Management Education:
A Challenge to Our Profession


Paul Wilson, Gary Fairchild, Lois Schertz Willett, and Bernie Erven

"One must learn by doing the thing, for though you think you know it-
you have no certainty until you try."

Sophocles, 5th Century, B.C.

Our Challenge

Society is demanding greater accountability from public organizations concerning the value

added by their activities and programs Publicly funded higher education is one of the

organizations under increased scrutiny--with ongoing taxpayer and legislative calls for increased

educational efficiency and effectiveness. Teaching responsibilities have received a significant

portion of the public's attention. Concerns have been raised about the quality and quantity of on-

and off-campus instruction. The status quo in teaching strategies and technologies may become

an untenable position in higher education as consumer expectations change, competition increases,

and financial resources decline in real terms. The status quo is also unacceptable to teachers

committed to improving their own effectiveness and efficiency.

Paul Wilson is Professor of Agricultural and Resource Economics, University of Arizona, Tucson,
Gary Fairchild and Lois Schertz Willett are Professors of Food and Resource Economics,
University of Florida, Gainesville and Fort Pierce, respectively, and Bernie Erven is Professor of
Agricultural, Environmental, and Development Economics, The Ohio State University, Columbus.

We find ourselves within this evolving and uncertain future when discovery and learning

lie at the core of our agricultural economics profession. Most of us are engaged, to varying

degrees, in research and the learning activities associated with the research process (e.g. M.S. and

Ph.D. training, reading journal articles). Arguably, these activities have taken center stage in our

profession and throughout the academy. Our challenge lies in the fact that our teaching and

extension responsibilities, strongly influenced by the research process, have been cast in terms of

"us teaching them", placing the focus on our transferring or delivering information to either on-

or off-campus audiences. Delivering facts, figures, trends, relationships, concepts, estimates, and

techniques often dominate our teaching and extension programs. Learning is secondary. Learning

does not necessarily occur just because we walk into a classroom or extension meeting prepared

to "teach".

In analytical terms, our profession has generally concentrated on the necessary, but not the

sufficient conditions for learning. We have developed our knowledge base with great enthusiasm

and skill. We congratulate ourselves for doing a good job teaching because we know our material,

believe it to be of critical importance, use outstanding audio-visuals, have a reasonable answer for

all questions asked, and receive better-than-average student ratings. However, a critical question

remains: has enough learning occurred? Learning requires both the communication of

knowledge/information and the successful internalization of same on the part of the learner. Very

few of us have invested any significant time acquiring the communication, organizational,

classroom management, and other teaching skills needed to successfully facilitate learning.

A Teaching/Learning Collection

The Resident Instruction, Extension, and Economic Education Committees of the

American Agricultural Economics Association (AAEA) sponsored a teaching/learning workshop

at the 1998 AAEA Annual Meeting with the theme "Active Learning: Engaging Adults in

Economic and Management Education". Eighty participants experienced innovative teaching and

learning strategies which are research and experiential based. The workshop's presenters

encouraged us to provide outstanding learning experiences for both on- and off-campus learners,

and to take risks in our teaching programs by using simple but powerful tools for engaging learners

in their education.

The following topics were discussed at the workshop and provide perspective to the

instructional challenges facing us all. Rick Weldon, Bea Covington, Burl Long, and Larry Connor

from the University of Florida took a futuristic look at our students with implications for who,

what, how, and where we teach [Review ofAgricultural Economics, 21(1999):526-540]. Charles

Bonwell then challenged our profession to engage our students in active learning and provided

many helpful tips for taking low-risk, but significant, steps in this direction [Review ofAgricultural

Economics, 21(1999):543-550].

The remaining papers represented analyses, approaches, and experiences associated with

engaging students in off-campus learning. Mike Ellerbrock and Marjorie Norton, Virginia Tech,

analyzed philosophical foundations for engaging off-campus adults in the learning process. Henry

Bahn, USDA, accepted the challenge of answering the extension question, "How do we serve the

adult who is an unwilling learner?". Drawing on eight years of experience, Jim Kendrick,


University of Nebraska, discussed the student engagement challenges and opportunities associated

with distance education courses. Recognizing that U.S. industry trains more students for more

hours than our universities, Kim Harris, Southern Illinois University, shared what he has learned

from being an industry trainer, providing six important lessons for on- and off-campus teaching.

Steve Sonka, University of Illinois, and Michael Boehlje, Purdue University, shared their

experiences in executive education, concluding that engagement is critical for adult learning. And

finally, Bruce Weber, Oregon State University, analyzed the challenges associated with engaging

citizens in the Oregon Fiscal Choices Project.

What Is Active Learning?: Some Teasers

Engaging college students and adult learners in an educational process requires their active

participation. Charles Bonwell notes that learning is a process of discovery, with the student

(learner) as the main agent. Bonwell emphasizes that students learn what they care about and

remember what they understand. Learning is not a spectator sport, even though we often teach as

though it were. Learning best occurs when the instructor or extension specialist is able to actively

engage the learner in a creative, interactive, integrative process.

Active learning simply means keeping the learners' heads in the game. We must engage

the students' minds, helping them make what they learn a part of themselves, and tying new ideas

to what they already understand and know. Active learning is having students doing things and

thinking about the things they are doing.

Common Threads Woven Through the Workshop Papers

Mix it up. Research suggests that student learning styles are not consistent with the traditional

"talking head" lecture format. Retention of information declines dramatically after 15-18

minutes of straight lecture. Students learn more when they are actively engaged, in some

way, in the classroom or extension meeting. A challenge: Break your traditional 50 minute

lecture up into two 18 minute mini-lectures and two 6 minute learning activities. Break your

traditional 15 minute extension presentation into 10 minutes of lecture and 5 minutes of

audience participation.

Less is more. We are driven, as instructors, to cover the course material. Often we fall into an

instructional trap when we think covering every topic in our syllabus implies student

learning. Research indicates that students learn and retain more information at the end of

a session or semester when less is covered. Consistently ask yourself, "What is the tradeoff

between subject matter coverage and learning in my extension presentation or classroom

today?". A challenge: Evaluate your extension presentations and course syllabi for signs of

content maximization versus learning maximization.

Begin at the end. Decide what are to be the important "take aways" from your presentation.

Next determine the educational process that will yield a high level of retention on these key

points. A challenge: Take a recent lecture and work back from your objectives for that day.

Did the process produce learning?

The professor as coach. Coaches prepare athletes through conditioning, instruction, drill, and

encouragement. The athlete is the center of attention, not the coach. A challenge: Answer

this question: "Where is the focus in your classroom or extension program?".

Fun enhances learning. We are professional learners. We enjoy learning or we would not have

selected this career path. A challenge: Look around your classroom or extension audience -

are the students having fun? Explore the recommended readings at the end of this paper for

possible methods for enhancing learning, even learning economics, through enjoyment.

Take a risk. Much is known about learning styles and teaching strategies. Too often we ignore

or fail to explore the wealth of research-based literature that would improve our teaching.

A challenge: Read Bonwell's paper and incorporate one idea into your classroom or

extension program this year. Another challenge: Over the next year, explore the rich body

of knowledge cited in the recommended reading section at the end of this paper.

Our Opportunity

We can improve student learning by taking our content expertise and combining it with a

serious investment in and understanding of learning styles, group dynamics, and teaching methods.

Anything less reduces our efficiency and effectiveness in producing educational value for society.

Recommended Reading

Bonwell, Charles C. and Tracy E. Sutherland. "The Active Learning Continuum: Choosing

Activities to Engage Students in the Classroom" in Using Active Learning in College

Classes: A Range of Options for Faculty. T.E. Sutherland and C.C. Bonwell (eds.), San

Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers, 1996.

Byrns, Ralph T. and Gerald W. Stone. Great Ideas for Teaching Economics. New York:

HarperCollins, 1995.

Cyrs, Thomas E. Essential Skills for College Teaching: An Instructional Systems Approach.

Las Cruces: Center for Educational Development, New Mexico State University, 1994.

Keenan, Diane and Mark H. Maier. Economics Live.': Learning Economics the Collaborative

Way. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1994.

McKeachie, Wilbert J. Teaching Tips: Strategies, Research and Theory for College and

University Teachers. 10th Edition. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1999.

Pike, Robert W. Creative Training Techniques Handbook. 2nd Edition, Minneapolis: Lakewood

Books, 1994.

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